Meet the Nunavut candidates: NDP's Lori Idlout wants to redefine Nunavut's relationship with feds

Lori Idlout is looking to fill the vacancy of outgoing NDP candidate Mumilaaq Qaqqaq as Nunavut's MP. A lawyer by profession, Idlout recently acted on behalf of the group protesting developments at the Baffinland Mary River Mine.

'I can help to make sure that my decision making, my voice, benefits Nunavummiut,' Idlout says

Lori Idlout is looking to fill the vacancy of outgoing NDP candidate Mumilaaq Qaqqaq as Nunavut's MP. (Submitted by Lori Idlout)

This is part of a series of profiles of Nunavut's federal election candidates.

All candidates were asked the same questions. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Lori Idlout, a lawyer by profession, is Nunavut's candidate for the New Democrat Party.

Idlout was called to the bar in 2019 after completing law school at the University of Ottawa. Recently, she acted on behalf of the group of people protesting developments at Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation's Mary River Mine.

Idlout, raised mostly in Igloolik, also lived in Pond Inlet, Rankin Inlet and Chesterfield Inlet before moving to Iqaluit where she lives now.

Why are you running? 

With me at the House of Commons I can help to make sure that my decision making, my voice, benefits Nunavummiut. I've been serving and working hard for Nunavummiut since my career began. And if I'm elected, I feel like I could increase my ability to make sure that Nunavummiut are benefiting from what I have to offer. 

What main issue is will you focus on the most? 

The main area of focus that I'm hoping to bring to Nunavummiut is to talk about redefining Nunavut's relationship with the federal government. Most times when the federal government is involved or engaged, Nunavummiut are basically begging for more resources or more services for things like housing. And what I would like to do is to make sure that when I'm at the House of Commons, that I'm advocating based on the strength of Nunavummiut and the resources that we have to offer to the federal government and make sure that when we are negotiating or when we're making decisions that impact Nunavut, that we're doing it based on the strength of what we do have to offer. And, really make sure that we're highlighting that Inuit and Nunavummiut have gone this far as a nation, and to make sure that with the strength of our culture, the strength of living in the Arctic, that we use that to negotiate in a new way. 

Why are you running for a spot with the NDP? 

My values align so well with the NDP. The priorities and commitments that the NDP has had for the last many, many years, I've always felt most connected with the NDP. I find Inuit culture is very much in line with the NDP. We're about inclusiveness and we're very much about respecting diversity and making sure that we're serving the vulnerable communities in the best way that we can.

How will you represent your party's platform? 

My priority will always be to make sure that the Nunavut voice is heard and represented in the work that I do. Nunavummiut have experienced many great strengths, but also many great struggles, and my whole priority will be to make sure that Nunavummiut are being heard wherever I go. The second way that I'll do it is to be part of the NDP and make sure that the NDP voice is heard strongly across Canada, among Indigenous Canadians, among small business owners. I want to make sure that I'm promoting the inclusiveness and the diversity that the NDP is basing their platform on. Thirdly and finally, my approach will be to make sure that the Conservatives and the Liberals are being held to account. 

We've heard many promises from the Conservative and Liberal Parties, but they haven't been held to account for breaking all their promises. 

How will you represent the needs of Nunavut and Nunavummiut to Ottawa? 

I've always been a very hard worker. I've always worked hard to gain the respect of people that I work with, and will always make sure that I seek guidance from my elders. I will always make sure that they seek guidance from my constituents. So I will not do it in isolation. I will do it with engagement from Nunavummiut. And I will do it based on what I was told growing up, to always help Nunavummiut, help my fellow human beings. So I will always use that as my guiding principle, is that I'm going to be here to make sure that the decisions and the advocacy that I do for Nunavummiut will be to benefit Nunavut. 

What do you think the challenges will be if you get elected to represent Nunavut and how do you plan to overcome them? 

I really like NDP's vision, which is 'ready for better.' The Conservatives and the Liberals have made so many promises that they haven't followed through on. Being a lone seat in Nunavut, I know that that will be a challenge, but I'm hoping to work with my territorial counterparts in the Yukon and the N.W.T. We're hoping to work together to strengthen our northern voice. I'll also be working with NDP members that are Indigenous as well as allies that support Indigenous communities. 

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq spoke out about how difficult it is to have a voice in parliament, and the racial profiling systems she encountered. How are you planning to do your job in that environment? 

First of all, I want to acknowledge what an amazing job Mumilaaq did as a young Inuk woman. She did such an amazing job being a strong voice, even though she experienced all those challenges. I had similar experiences when I left Nunavut to go to my undergraduate studies in the 90s. I experienced it again when I went to law school in my 40s. So having experienced those kinds of challenges, I feel prepared. I have the coping skills and I have the support of my family to know that I'll be able to manage whatever kind of stress that might come my way. I will give a stable and thoughtful response to any harsh treatment that might come my way, 

I know that most people, when they are having their own struggles, they like to blame others or they like to make sure that others are having a hard time as well. So I try to see the best people, and that's what I will do. I won't take it personally. I know that when people have struggles, we tend to be negative. But I will use my life history with my dad having committed suicide, with myself and my siblings having gone through foster care, I've had a lot of struggles in my life to prepare me to be a strong MP for Nunavut. 

So what are you going to be doing to campaign? 

I'm really excited to announce that my first visit will be to Igloolik. From there, I'm hoping to schedule visits to Pond inlet, Clyde River as well to the Kivalliq communities, Kitikmeot communities, I will go to as many communities that I'm allowed to and make sure that people who do know me are reminded of the work ethic that I've always had, that I will continue to work hard and ... that I want to hear from Nunavummiut no matter what their priorities are. And I will make sure that Nunavummiut are heard and that they feel heard. 

I will help to make sure that I take an approach that brings solutions to the House of Commons so that whatever decisions or issues that we've had over the years are approached with solutions that come from Nunavummiut. 

What do you think the challenges will be to representing such a big riding? 

Money is always a difficult challenge. For example, airfare is very expensive. The other challenge is the limited internet capacity that we have. So sometimes being able to communicate through the internet will be challenging and making sure that we have a good target group that can hear us, that feel that they can be heard by us. I think that will be a bit of a challenge. But I'll do my best to make sure that our youth are heard, that elders are heard, and that we reach out to women, hunters and make sure that everyone feels that their priorities are being heard throughout my campaign and hopefully when I am elected as the MP for Nunavut.